I’m continuing to preach with a little extra Salt for Advent. Today’s sermon: We don’t want to listen to God say things we don’t want to hear.
Delivered while I was ill. I left church after service (didn’t even shake hands), and went home to bed for three hours. Bible Class was supposed to be cancelled anyway, so I could help with the Christmas Pageant, so it worked out OK. This is only the third time in my ministry when I have done service while feeling this poorly. The other two were :Ash Wednesday with food poisoning, and Christmas Eve/Day with the flu. Today’s sermon, after the jump.
John has problem
Disciples want to follow him. Normally good thing. But he is done w/ work, now time to follow Jesus. Disciples don’t want to do that. Just like the leaders of the people did not want to be called poisonous snakes, and whitewashed tombs. True, but didn’t want to hear that. Wanted to hear how devoted they were, how good they were. Now, Jn’s disc. don’t want to hear the truth, that Jn is as good as dead, and the one who was to come after him, has arrived.
Sends them to Jesus w/ question. Are you one to come, or should expect another?
Jesus sends right back, go tell John… Whether want to or not, John’s disciples are now witnesses for Jesus. Then, Jesus praises John’s steadfastness. He isn’t reed blowing in wind. Doesn’t say what is popular – obvious because he is in prison for what he said. Jn speaks word of God. Doesn’t care whether some hear and believe, or not. Given a task, and does it. Prepare way of Lord, well, Lord is hear. Way is prepared. Jn himself, “I am friend of bridegroom, rejoice to hear bridegrooms voice. But now must decrease.” Jn does not shy away from unpleasant truths – not just that the leaders were whitewashed tombs, not just that Herod was sinning by taking his brothers wife. Jn knows his time is over.
His disc. don’t want to hear it. So he sends them to Jesus, and has them ask a question to which he knows the answer. After all, Jn called him the lamb of god who takes away the sin of the world. Jn saw the Holy Spirit descending from heaven. Jn knew that Jesus should be baptizing him, and yet, js comes to jn for baptism like any old sinner. He knew that Jesus was the one to take the sin, your sin. And take it right to the cross, and into death.
But that wasn’t what his disciples wanted to hear. They wanted to hear about ways to get Jn out of prison. They wanted to rail against Herod some more, to continue John’s legacy. But John’s legacy was Jesus. And the time had come for them to recognize that, and move on.
Tough to change.
Even today. Tough to change. Don’t need to. As long as accept everyone else, you are fine. No reason to change anything. Even in church. Don’t like what’s being preached here, go somewhere else find message more to your liking. Want to hear about how your fine works can save you? Church for that. Want to hear about how no behavior, no matter how depraved, is off limits? Church for that. Want to hear that your decision to follow Jesus is what saves you, instead of God’s promise in baptism. Church for that. Church stops being God speaking to his people, it becomes people who already agree getting together to celebrate that agreement. But if that’s what church is, then when problems arise, the church is in trouble. As long as God’s word says what I want to hear, OK, otherwise, problems. Don’t like message here, go to another church. Or stop going to church at all. After all, if I don’t like message of God’s word in church, can get it just as nicely at home.
But of course, at home can not hear absolution spoken for your sins. No baptism at home. No way to follow Lord’s command to take eat and take drink.
Week after week we come, but there’s no real change. We hear what we like – all well and good. God is speaking to me confirming what I already knew. Hear what I don’t like, probably just opinion, and can be ignored.
Rather than, what does God’s word say, let it change me. John has hard news for his disciples. Jesus is the one to come. There is no other. It isn’t Jn, his time is over. The cry of Advent goes out in the church “Repent!” Repent of slowness to hear God’s word, unwillingness to let God do his work in you. Repent of not hearing and learning God’s word gladly, but rather hearing and learning that parts that sound good to me. Repent of allowing sin to creep back in, and repent of the times you invite it in. Repent of being a bad father, bad husband, bad wife, bad mother, disobedient child, unfaithful friend, repent of not doing your job to the best of your ability. Repent of not being satisfied with what God has given to you in this world. That’s what John says. But most of all. Repent of not letting Jesus do the saving. Repent of trying to squeak in a little bit of your own accomplishments, your own merits, your own stuff. You can’t do that. Only Jesus can save you. That means that you can’t.
So go, ask Jesus, are you the one to come, or is there another? Could it be me? Can I save me, or are you the one? Hear Jesus words and believe. “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Who else does these things? Who else can make the blind to see, the lame to walk, heal the lepers, give hearing the deaf, raise the dead? Who else can preach good news to the poor? And then Jesus says, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Jn wasn’t – he knew who and what Jesus was. His disciples had more trouble. Even Jesus disciples would have trouble with what Jesus was about to do. They didn’t want him to die.
What Jesus is for. Why sends them back to john to have them tell him good news. So they would hear it. Comes to you, says, look, here is savior from your sin, yes, even from sin of arrogance that you know better than God. Repent, hear the word of your lord, hear the word of your savior, and live.